STATE DIVING: Three-peat helps Collins Hill’s Smithson finish strong

Peter Smithson

ATLANTA — Peter Smithson had more than just a three-peat in mind heading into the 2019 GHSA State Diving Championships.

The Collins Hill senior wanted to go out with a bang, and did just that by breezing past the field for his third straight Class AAAAAAA state title Thursday at Georgia Tech’s McAuley Aquatic Center.

Smithson finished with a 12-dive total of 762.35 points, easily outpointing runner-up Sam Witcher of Lakeside-DeKalb (675.15) and third-place Carson Tyler of Colquitt County (665.20).

“For sure, it really feels great,” Smithson said. “Starting off, things weren’t the best. I wasn’t really happy with my first two dives, but (diving is) a sport that’s all about consistency, and that’s what I need to do. I needed to forget about the (first) two dives and keep going full ahead. I was pleased with my last four dives in each round.”

Indeed, after trailing Tyler by just under eight points following the second dive of the preliminary round, Smithson turned things up with a dive that pulled four scores of 9.0 and an 8.5 to jump into the lead for good.

And he kept pulling further away with every time, culminating with a dive that included three 9.5s, a 9.0 and a perfect 10.0 on the final dive of the championship round that included the final six dives to end his high school career on a high note.

With the change of formats from the old 11-dive meet to the 12-dive set-up this year, Smithson’s total won’t be measured against the previous state record of 629.80 set by Alpharetta’s Jack Nyqvist in 2011.

However, it does set an initial standard that divers will shoot for going forward should the GHSA continue to use the new meet format.

That is a prospect that Smithson said he is particularly proud of.

“I feel really honored just to have my name up there and have a record up there,” Smithson said. “It really does mean a lot, especially with (it being) my senior year (and) going for it. Hopefully it’s there for a while, but best of luck to the guys like Carson and them. They’re really great divers.”

Two other Gwinnett individuals qualified for the final round of 10 divers, with North Gwinnett’s Valentino Sorto placing eighth with 475.65 points, followed closely by Parkview’s Maxwell Pate in ninth place with 468.40 points.

Parkview’s Carter Bennett (12th, 217.35) and Mill Creek’s Hunter Misuraca (14th, 203.25) also earned points for their respective teams with their performances in the preliminary round.

Henderson, Camarda crack top five

Dacula’s Lauren Henderson and Norcross’ Abby Camarda were the only two Gwinnett divers to qualify for the finals of the combined Class 6A-7A meet, and both made those spots count.

Henderson wound up third both in the overall meet and among Class AAAAAA individuals with a 12-dive score of 562.05, just over a half-point behind runner-up Lauren Davidson of Dunwoody (562.60) and just over eight points behind champion Hannah Stumpf of Allatoona (570.60).

The placing was a big jump for Henderson, who placed fifth in last year’s meet and ended her high school career on a positive note despite what could’ve been a distraction when the elastic band holding up her hair tangled and had to be cut off between dives during the championship finals.

“I’m really happy because I worked really hard to get back to state and try to improve and do better,” the Falcons’ senior said. “I did better all-around. … Honestly, (the tangled band) helped me because it took my mind off of diving and focus on (relaxing).”

Camarda also improved her standing from last season, moving up one spot to No. 5 in the combined meet and finishing as runner-up to Kennesaw Mountain’s Kyler Dixon among Class AAAAAAA divers with a score of 526.65.

The Blue Devils senior entered the championship round seeded sixth, and it looked like she might fall back to as low as seventh before she rallied in her final two dives to break back into the top five overall.

“For me … in the preliminaries, my performance was not up to what I was happy with,” Camarda said. “I was really mad about it, and I knew that coming into the finals, I wanted to focus and work as hard as I could. Top five is really awesome because last year I got sixth. And second in Class AAAAAAA is also pretty awesome.”

Wesleyan’s Price is Gwinnett’s lone scorer in A-AAAAA

Wesleyan sophomore Jacob Price was the only diver from Gwinnett to make the championship round and score with his performance in the Class A-AAAAA meet.

Price’s total of 472.70 was good for sixth place overall and third in the Class A-AAA subdivision, which earned the Wolves 20 team points in the subdivision team standings.

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Graduated from GSU in 1990. Have worked in sports journalism for the past 28 years, covering a variety of sports at the Gwinnett Daily News, AJC, Lafayette (La.) Daily Advertiser and Marietta Daily Journal before returning to Gwinnett at the Post in 2007.